WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

Rich Rodriguez taking me places I’ve never been, once more, with feeling… (And doesn’t WVU come off as so angelic in trying to expedite the trial?)

Wakefield said this morning the university’s Board of Governors is concerned that if the lawsuit doesn’t move quickly through court, Rodriguez’s new job at the University of Michigan and his busy schedule will lead to the litigation dragging on.

“We recognize that with Mr. Rodriguez being the head coach at Michigan, and with things like fall practice starting in August and the football season, his attorneys might try to argue things can’t proceed in the fall because of his schedule,” Wakefield said. “WVU wants the case resolved quickly, and by expediting it, we can do that and accommodate Mr. Rodriguez’s schedule.”

Off to the airport. Should be home sometime around Sunday. WVU’s RPI is at No. 34 now and the consensus is split UConn and Pitt, beat St. Johns, win at least one game in the Big East Tournament and the Mountaineers get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Has to be some combination of four wins that must include St. John’s and UConn and/or Pitt and one or two wins in the Garden. Can’t lose to St. John’s – period. Can’t lose to UConn and Pitt and hope to get in without anything less than making the finals of the Big East Tournament.

Be on the lookout for black eyes

Checking out Pat Forde’s “Forde Minutes” yesterday, I was rather amused to see Siena Coach Fran McCaffery’s wife needs a lesson in bench decorum — and that they were both ejected from a game in 2006. The best part? Siena’s nickname is the Saints!

Fortunately, I read on and was treated with another tidbit.

Spies tell The Minutes that a Big East coach who shall remain nameless (38) recently got into a halftime argument with one of his assistants in a hallway outside the locker room. According to a source, it escalated to the point where punches were thrown.

I know it wasn’t Bob Huggins. It just wasn’t. We’d know about it. Either he would have made a joke about it in his postgame press conference and grouped it among his halftime adjustments or someone would have come forth with the blow-by-blow and been proud of the winner. That’s how these Mountaineers are wired.

We’ll probably know after the season when a coach is fired or loses an assistant or assistants. I have a not-so-wild guess because I can’t believe how this man coaches and figured it was a matter of time until someone had enough. Perhaps some beat writers will press the players, who are probably done following the leader and might divulge the dust-up.

I believe I’ve written two blogs and three newspaper features on WVU’s women’s basketball team this season — and the Mountaineers are 0-4 in subsequent games. They’ve lost five games all year, including last night at Pitt. Eh. I guess it happens if you write enough. I remember writing a column years back that highlighted about a dozen things I’d completely jinxed with my words. I called a high school baseball coach to do a season preview a few days later and he (jokingly?) declined — he was busy and a colleague ended up doing the story. Said team would go to the state tournament.

Anyhow, included in that column was Jerry Wainright, who was then coaching up John Beilein’s loaded leftovers at the University of Richmond. The Spiders were 12-6 and had won four straight heading into a big game against Xavier. They went 4-7 the rest of the season.

Well, Wainwright, really one of the best defensive coaches in the country, now coaches DePaul, which is tonight’s opponent for West Virginia in what is essentially a must-win for any postseason chances. I don’t think the Blue Demons are as bad as their 10-16 record — they’ve won five Big East games — but I don’t think they need me jinxing them, either.

The Blue Demons have lost their last two games by a combined seven points, squandering a lead at Connecticut and missing shots at the end against Seton Hall.

“The good thing is we’ve gone right to the wire,” Wainwright said. “The bad thing is we’ve gone right to the wire. How do we react? It’s almost like somebody showing you a piece of candy through the glass window.”

To avoid sucking on lemons in mid-March, DePaul needs to sweeten its shooting, especially against West Virginia.

Villanova is the only Big East team to exceed 70 points against the Mountaineers, who hold opponents to 61.3 points per game, third best in the conference.

“That puts a lot of pressure on our offense,” Wainwright said. “West Virginia has the best midrange game in our league.”

Did I say THREE HOURS?

Woops. I meant five hours…with absolutely no promise of getting out of here tonight. Blizzard-like conditions (I’m told) and planes can’t land/take off like that. Also, per the entertaiment that just occurs in airport establishments, I just saw a 20-something shove a 50-something who was weraring a Steelers cap and a Margaritaville T-shirt. Never fear…they were arguing about the Democratic candidates. They are now doing shots. All is well…

Fun at the airport

I’m not sure I can explain how shocked I was when I arrived at gate C 53 this afternoon and discovered my strategically planned — read: allowed me to sleep in — flight to Chicago had been delayed THREE HOURS. Then I had an unforgettable discussion with the gate attendant who told me I might want to ”examine other ways” to get to O’Hare.

”OK…but isn’t that, you know, your job?”
”(Stare)”

Sidebar: This happens to me far too frequently now, but was once rare. I was rarely ever delayed until the 2004-05 basketball season when I’m convinced I caught John Beilein’s perpetual travel problems. Remember the struggle getting to the Big East Tournament in 2004? Well, after I was caught in a handful of coinciding delays after that, I accused him of as much when we were delayed in Oklahoma City after the O’Reilly All-College Classic before Christmas ’05. He addresed my mock frustration with an apology…and we sat on the runway for 70 minutes.

WVU almost always flew commercial then and I was somehow seated next to Johannes Herber. He read a German novel and I’m pretty sure my IQ jumped seven points that day. We were like two hours late ariving in Pittsburgh, Herber made like O.J. through the terminal and he still missed his connecting flight that was supposed to take him to a friend’s place, where he’d spend the holiday. Beilein went well out of his way to find Herber and Herber ended up driving with Mike Gansey to Cleveland and made his flight the next day. End sidebar…

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m entirely bored here. Following my mind-numbing chat with the attendant, it was agreed I was better off waiting out the delay. I found a place that welcomes 21-year-olds, from where I write this on my MotoQ as Space Hog riffs over the speakers. Along the way I saw something quite surprisng. A WVU fan was wearing a dark blue No. 14 football jersey.

Not unusual you say? I agreed at first. WVU fans are common in this airport and I thought it was a Jason Gwaltney, which was once as popular as Noel Devine’s No. 7 before Noel Devine. At worst, it was a Charles Hales, who was popular in a blue-collar way when he backed up Raheed Marshall.

It wasn’t a Gwaltney or a Hales or even a Hollywood Davis — officially gone from WVU, by the way, since before the Fiesta Bowl. It was a Brad Lewis jersey, name on the back and all! Even better, he was waiting on a flight to Detroit, perhaps to exact his revenge.

Weirdest throwback ever. For some reason, I felt the need to share this…

Postseason formula

To succeed in whatever type of madness in which you are embroiled during March, it’s generally accepted you need a few things.

1. Experience
2. Guards
3. Shooting
4. Defense

Well, get to know West Virginia’s women’s team, its seven seniors, its wise backcourt, its plethora of perimeter threats and its don’t-you-dare defense.

With Connecticut and Rutgers playing each other to finish their regular seasons, West Virginia can grab no worse than a tie for second place and match the most regular-season victories in school history by winning out — including matchups against Louisville and No. 24 Syracuse. The Mountaineers never have finished higher than fourth in Big East play.

“We bought into defense. If we can play great defense and we can rebound, we have an opportunity to win,” says coach Mike Carey, whose team is 3-4 when opponents shoot 40% or better. “We’re a blue-collar team. We don’t have All-Americans like these other teams. Our players have bought into working hard.”

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Happy birthday, Pat White

He’s going to be a sophomore, right? Right? Best wishes to the kid who may very well be the best player in the country next year. In honor of No. 5, five top moments at WVU.

It’s a guilty pleasure, but one of my favorite parts about the NFL Combine — besides Mike Mayock’s lisp –is the chance or likelihood a star player blows the Wonderlic test. The details come out gradually and I’ve got a few suspects for this year’s intellectual tank job.

Speaking of Vince Young, I’m reminded of the Sweet 16 game in 2006 between Texas and WVU. Young, of course, played football for Texas and the basketball team had P.J. Tucker, who had his share of trouble with academics. WVU fans produced these signs:

Dear P.J.,
Thanks for helping me study for the Wonderlic.
Sincerely,
Vince

If you can read this
you’re not P.J. Tucker

Anyhoo, teams put a lot of stock into the Wonderlic which kind of baffles me because someone can flunk it and teams will look the other way. Let’s be honest: If you have trouble with this, you’re in trouble.

Combine review

If nothing else, WVU’s four participants in the NFL combine started their weekend by saying some interesting things. Owen Schmitt is, of course, a fascinating story and Johnny Dingle will fill your notebook. Then some of the quieter and more soft-spoken Mountaineers got to talking and Steve Slaton and Darius Reynaud had some provocative things to say.

(By the way, this is borderline maddening because players — and those two in particular — wouldn’t say anything like that to the media covering them on a daily basis. I’d step away from the laptop and do something constructive to cool off right now, like go and get a haircut, but I’ve already pulled most of my hair out.)

Then the players got to, uh, combining and it would seem a few guys did pretty well for themselves.

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Friday Feedback

News of the day, of course, is the pending retirement of Ed Pastilong. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy or scheme in motion here. I just thing Pastilong is 65-years-young, has been the A.D. since 1989 and has been through a whole hell of a lot in recent years. “Everyone,” he said Thursday, “reaches the time when he just needs to go fishing.”   

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, I feel your pain … “turn them cameras off.”

Hey, speaking of “Outside the Lines”…

Karl said:

Mike, per your first point, I had the same reaction toward that woman. My first thought was, will this lady look at herself the way I do now when she watches this segment? My second thought was, low blow showing that clip of Coach Gibson’s sister! I kid, I kid …

And per the UWV thing, I don’t think it will ever get worse than the time they brought out James Earl Jones to fire us up during halftime at a game and he messed that up. I assume he was being paid well for being there, yet he made that mistake over the PA system live in front of 65,000 people. 

I can’t find the OTL clip anywhere online, but I wish I could because that woman still terrifies me. I mean, she knows it was a fake Rodriguez, right? I could understand a similar reaction, say, a week after the resignation, but we’re more than two months in now. Seek help. And I remember the James Earl Jones gaffe. He was getting booed as he walked off the field and helplessly waved and smiled. He had no idea what he’d done.

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